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Gun safety group that supports Second Amendment works to reduce deaths


At least one person is dead, and three others are injured after a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. It took place just down the road from where a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in 2019. Police have detained two suspects and are investigating a potential motive in this latest shooting, which comes only days after a gunman killed three people at Michigan State University. All this gun violence is again leading to calls to do something. We're joined now by Olivia Troye. She's a member of a gun safety advocacy group called 97Percent. And she served as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. Good morning, Olivia.

OLIVIA TROYE: Good morning.

KHALID: So I've got to begin by asking you a personal question. I know you're from El Paso. And in fact, you mentioned on Twitter yesterday that your aunt was at the shopping mall complex during the shooting yesterday. And she survived the 2019 Walmart shooting. How is she doing?

TROYE: Yeah, it's been a really hard 24 hours. She's doing OK. She's obviously shaken. I am just so impressed by her resilience and strength. She obviously, you know, is, I think, experiencing the aftermath of the trauma, having been through both of these shootings in El Paso now. And I am just so grateful, we all are, that it was strangers who have helped her each and every time. She hid in the back. One of the people that she goes to - she's a regular at one of the little cafes there in the mall - pulled her into the back kitchen. The lady at that cafe was incredibly action-oriented and closed the gate, turned the lights off and hid everyone in their back kitchen.

KHALID: Oh, wow. So the gun safety and advocacy group that you are a part of, 97Percent, it says its mission is to reduce gun deaths in the country. Can you give me some specifics on what you all are doing to achieve that?

TROYE: Yeah, sure. We work by bringing together non-gun owners and gun owners, which we think is a more holistic approach, and really inviting people into the conversation and working holistically together to find a better path forward. We believe in, you know, making sure violent criminals can't access guns. We believe that, you know, violent misdemeanor crimes as - should be the threshold for exclusion for gun purchases. We believe in gun permit laws at the state level in conjunction with background checks. And we obviously believe in red flag laws at the state level.

This is based on conversations and research with people who are - you know, are Second Amendment supporters, gun enthusiasts. We're a group that has brought together Republicans and Democrats, former members of Congress, current members of Congress, former national security people, like myself. And we also have two former NRA lobbyists on our board.

KHALID: I want to ask you about one idea that President Biden has been reiterating quite a bit lately. He called even in his State of the Union address for a ban on assault weapons. Do you think that that's something that would help improve the situation around gun violence?

TROYE: I mean, surely, reducing the number of guns that we have in our streets in the United States, I think, would be an important step. But the reality is, is that we don't see that happening any time soon.

KHALID: Like, politically, you don't see it happening?

TROYE: Politically, yes. Politically, we just don't see the threshold for that. And also, the reality is, is that I think gun owners don't really agree with that being the necessary approach when there are so many other measures that we could be taking to reduce gun violence.

KHALID: So I guess I want to understand - I mean, given that so many people want to see something change, why are we still not seeing sort of substantial change on this front?

TROYE: I think we need leadership. I think we need elected leaders to act on this. And quite frankly, it needs to come mostly from the Republican side. I think gun owners and non-gun owners are united on this. We want change. I'm a gun owner. I have grown up with guns in the household. And all of us are in agreement on concerns on safety. And we fear that this gun violence is not going away.

KHALID: Thanks for your time, Olivia. I appreciate it.

TROYE: Thank you.

KHALID: Olivia Troye is a member of a gun safety advocacy group called 97Percent, and she served as a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.